Political scientist Gary Moncrief has analyzed results from Idaho's first-ever closed primary and says the early evidence suggests it failed to achieve the Republican Party's aim -- to keep Democrats and independents from influencing nominees for the general election.
Moncrief, a University Distinguished Professor at Boise State, compared Tuesday's turnout in the Republican and Democratic primaries to the same figures in the three past presidential elections.
The plan to limit the primary to "real" Republicans appears to have failed, said Moncrief, who added that more data is necessary to draw a firm conclusion.
Rather than depressing the proportion of ballots cast on the GOP side by requiring party affiliation to vote, the GOP boosted its share of the vote.
"This is just one example from one year, and we will need multiple data points to truly test the 'raiding' hypothesis," wrote Moncrief in an email. "But this initial test shows no support for the notion that much crossover voting was occurring--or that the closing of the primary discouraged such raiding if indeed it was occurring previously."
Moncrief adjusted for population change to establish turnout as a percentage of population. His table follows, along with his entire email:
Year....Pop......Votes cast....% Pop...Dem.....GOP.....%GOP
"In an effort to shed a little objective light on the discussion about the primary, I offer the attached table. For the calculations, I used the total vote for CD1 and CD2 for presidential years. I could not find 2012 registration figures, so I show the total vote as a percent of state population (which has been virtually the same in the last few presidential year primaries (around 10% of state population).
"But the important figures are the percent of people voting in the Republican primary compared to the Democratic primary. If the claim that Democrats have been raiding the GOP primary is true, then we should expect that the GOP percent of the total vote should DECLINE this year (since the Dems and unaffiliated voters would be banned from voting in the GOP primary.
"Since only 'real' Republicans can vote in the GOP primary, this should represent a smaller percentage relative to the total vote). As you can see, that is not the case. In fact, the percentage INCREASED. This is just one example from one year, and we will need multiple data points to truly test the 'raiding' hypothesis. But this initial test shows no support for the notion that much crossover voting was occurring--or that the closing of the primary discouraged such raiding if indeed it was occurring previously."
On Wednesday, GOP Chairman Norm Semanko compared the turnout in 2012 -- which Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says is a record low of 23 percent -- and pronounced the new law a success because more Republicans voted in the 2012 primary than in 2008.
But Ysursa, and his fellow Republican, Gov. Butch Otter, say the historical low in turnout suggests the GOP should reconsider opening the primary to non-Republicans at the party's state convention next month.
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